Did you know that it’s fairly easy for your local business to pop up on the top of Google with just a little bit of work?
Businesses use the internet to attract customers, and that’s nothing new, but how a customer sees your business when they Google something is still a mystery to a lot of business owners.
Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) is a way to optimize your content, and your website so that a customer sees your website on the first page of Google, Bing, Yahoo, or other search engines.
How does SEO work? Let’s assume you want to look for a plumber in your local area, and you search “local plumbers,” “plumbers near me,” or “plumbers in (area name).” When you engage a search engine with these keywords, you will get local and organic search results.
Did you know that when you search on google for a broad keyword like “real estate” or “pizza place,” that Google takes the wheel and the FIRST results that you’re shown are local map results? This is shown to the search based on the location that they are at when they are making the search.
Yes, this means that someone searching for pizza at their house will give different results than when they search at work or at a friend’s house. This is really important. This means that you can rank for otherwise impossible broad tail keywords in a local market with ease.
Websites need to earn the “right” to be displayed on the first page on the Search Engine Result Pages (or SERP), and the results will depend on the satisfaction and reactions of the people who search for the information.
SEO itself refers to organic SEO, and it is a practice in which all webmasters recommend to stay competitive. It’s essential for staying on top of the game when it comes to Search Engine visibility and relevance.
Note that local SEO is considered part of the two major types of SEO, and there are subtle differences which you need to understand between the two, to efficiently optimize your website.
Organic SEO or Traditional SEO
Organic SEO or Traditional SEO is needed to optimize your website to make it Search Engine Friendly, so it ranks along with relevant keywords.
SEO may or may not contain local SEO elements, depending on if it is or is not associated with a physical business. Organic SEO can be done for any website even if it exists solely on the internet.
Most bloggers, website owners, online store owners as well as some brick and mortar businesses employ Organic SEO to improve their rankings and increase their search engine traffic. Organic SEO keywords usually don’t include area-specific keywords and may include things like “mixing in Pro Tools,” “How to install a faucet,” “Desk assembly guide,” etc.
One of the most famous websites that use organic SEO for various topics is Wikihow; they dish out tons of Search Engine Optimized topics which brings a lot of organic traffic.
When it comes to ranking websites for organic SEO, quality content is best. The goal is to optimize your content while providing a great user experience. As a result, you increase your chances of being ranked high in the SERP.
Search engines rank and favor content that is relevant to the user. An example would be to search “Loan brokers,” the top listed websites are considered to be the most relevant in terms of their services, content, and information by Google.
Now, Google shows websites that are ranked organically; what happens if you were a small loan company in the middle of New York? How will your website be ranked on Google? What will show up when someone searches “Loan brokers New York”? Here’s where Local SEO comes in.
How To Rank Local SEO
Organic SEO is about optimizing your content for organic traffic, whereas Local SEO is about building up reliability, trust signals and relevant signs that target specific locations. If you were to search “New York Loan Brokers,” you will receive a plethora of results which are relevant to people present in New York City.
These results are coupled with relevant information about the establishments which can include hours of operation, address, phone number, directions, websites, etc.
Google Local SEO has a separate algorithm for displaying and analyzing local results vs. regular SEO. Your goal is to optimize for searches to show up in a particular geographic area. If you want your website to show on a map, then you need local SEO.
You need location signals with a specific focus on your content. The number one most important thing is to have a physical address in the city or region being searched. You’ll never show up in a map within the city results if you don’t have this.
Local SEO is Link Building
Other websites will reference your website or content from your site through backlinks. In local SEO you only need a few local links. A handful makes a massive difference. You’re not worrying about domain authority or even whether the link is follow or nofollow.
A local church website may have very low domain authority. But a backlink from them will do well for local SEO. It is easier to build local SEO links.
Again, yes even nofollow links help. This means that things like comments on a local website’s blog, posts within local based forums, etc. will help. This is NOT the case in the standard organic SEO world, only Local.
Relationships are important to get from someone you know if you want a local link. Local charities and sponsorships may help. Citations are good for N.A.P. (name, address, and phone number) on other websites. Your SEO should be about the targeted keyword and your local area.
What is NAP (Name, Address, Phone number)
Your website needs to have a full, consistent NAP throughout the website. You must use the EXACT details and format on your own site, as well as when you’re mentioning your address on other websites for local citations.
Use the Schema.org (https://schema.org/LocalBusiness) on your NAP to allow search engines to accurately and correctly display your business’ information.
For The Tech People Who Want To Use Code
If you want to learn how to rank local SEO without using code, you can. Fortunately, you do not need to know how to code if you’re using WordPress and can install some schema plugins. But if you did want to use code:
Here is some general code you can use on your own website:
<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/LocalBusiness”>
<p itemprop=”name”>COMPANY NAME</p>
<p itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>
<p itemprop=”streetAddress”>ADDRESS LINE 1</p>
<p itemprop=”telephone”>PHONE NUMBER</p>
<meta itemprop=”latitude” content=”LATITUDE” />
<meta itemprop=”longitude” content=”LONGITUDE” />
You need to optimize for your own city first; if you want local, relevant business from your local area, setting your website/business up for that first is essential. Make sure you’re fully optimized and ranking well in local searches before you try to optimize for nearby cities.
Include your local keyword in all of the vital page elements:
Add your Geo-location and a relevant keyword in your title tag
Add your Geo-location and a relevant keyword in your H1 Heading
Add your Geo-location and a relevant keyword in your Content
Add your Geo-location and a relevant keyword in your Image alt text
Add your Geo-location and a relevant keyword in your URL
Meta. You can also post blog content not about your business but about your local area. This tells google about your relevancy as well.
This does a lot for your authority. For example, if you’re a local realtor, you can have content and blog posts all about the region that you serve. Aside from the SEO benefits of telling Google that you service this area, how much more likely is it that your visitors will trust you as the authority figure in your area if you’re sharing content that isn’t just specifically about what you do.
A great example… you’re a real estate agent in Philadelphia. You can have entire pieces of content all about local restaurants, ranking school systems, the top ten bars, and just about anything else with the local market. It is easy to create articles for this, and you can even outsource someone else to write them. Not to mention to the opportunity that you have to potentially get people to write guest blogs posts for you in exchange for a backlink costing you nothing.
Once you have ranked in your local area and you want to expand, you can build other local content on your site optimized for a neighboring region.
You create a separate area of your site all about that area that is geo-optimized for the nearby city. However, you will have to double your link building efforts so that you can build links from the targeted city to the silo on your site.
It takes a long time if you’re trying to build relevancy for a city where you have no physical location, and you’re trying to beat competitors who are actually located there… but it does work. You won’t show up in the map pack since it’s so heavily influenced by proximity, but you can show up in the localized organic results.
Personalization, behavioral signals, and social signals also come into play, just like they do with traditional SEO. Even though you’ve got more to worry about with local SEO, it’s typically easier to achieve excellent results in a local market. You’re not fighting against every competitor on the internet – you’re only fighting against the few competitors in the same local area.
And, since most small businesses and digital marketers don’t know what local SEO even is, they’re not including the additional local focus – which makes it easier to out-optimize them and outrank them. Especially, in certain areas.
Other Ranking Factors for How To Rank Local SEO
Google My Business is another important off-site factor for local SEO. It’s important to claim your location and ensure that your information is correct. The information you enter in your GMB dashboard will populate the info in your Knowledge Panel on brand searches.
Add a unique, correctly formatted description that contains links
Make sure your business in the right category
Upload a large number of photos, so people can see your business in-depth; this is also important for local SEO
Add your business’ phone number in your listing. *important
Add your business address which is both accurate, and consistent with the address on your website, and local directories
High-definition pictures as your profile image and cover photo
Add opening times, days open and operating hours
Unfortunately, mobile clicks on your website link in GMB or map searches are almost always misattributed. They’re all organic clicks – you can’t pull a map pack or business knowledge panel without a search. To make sure that you’re getting credit for the organic traffic, add UTM tracking parameters to your website link. Put whatever you want in the source value, but make sure that you set medium to organic. (can we explain this or how to do this a bit more)
Don’t try to fake your address – a GMB listing can only be created for businesses with a physical location, where customers visit the business at that location. You have to have clear signage with your business name as well.
If you’re having problems accessing your GMB listing, the best solution is to contact Twitter support. Hop on Twitter and send a tweet to @googlemybiz and their awesome team will have you up and running in no time. They’re also able to help with merges and deletions, so don’t be shy – ask them for help!
Local SEO Review Hack
My favorite and one of the most powerful local signals to get are reviews. Not only does it help your search engine, but it shows social proof of just how awesome your business is. I’ve helped businesses scale to skyrocket to the top of Google, earning an extra few thousand dollars a month in revenue, with just a few review campaigns.
But how does this work?
In Google search engine results, Google reviews help immensely. Any reviews that you get on your Google business page are automatically pulled over for use in Google maps (the standard on Android mobile devices).
In the US, Yelp populates the review stars on Apple maps – so any time someone searches for your business on an iPhone, they’re going to see Yelp stars instead of Google stars.
Outside of the US, you’ll need to check Apple maps to see which sites are feeding the stars – typically, it’ll be TripAdvisor, booking.com, or even Foursquare. Make sure you’re getting reviews on the site that matters for Apple Maps.
For Local SEO ranking, local reviews make a direct impact on the local SE ranking, and acquiring them will be important. Getting reviews doesn’t mean getting only Google Reviews, you’ll need to focus on getting reviews on your other review pages such as Yelp (used by Apple maps) and other local directories (yellow pages, TripAdvisor, etc.)
How Do I Get Reviews?
Capitalize on your customers and get in touch with them for reviews. This is where creative marketing comes into play. Maybe incite them to leave a good review on Google, Yelp, etc. by offering a discount on their purchase. Do you sell a product? At checkout, you can offer your customers a 5 to 10% discount on their purchase if they leave your business a review.
Pro Tip: When I’ve done local review campaigns in the past, I made sure to drip the reviews over time. I didn’t want to ask every client to leave a review in one spot at one time—that looks unnatural. Instead, I would ask 10 clients to leave reviews on Google, then another 10 a week later for Yelp, then another 5 for Facebook, and another week 10 to TripAdvisor or another platform.
Make sure you’re responding to all of your reviews on the various platforms. It’s important to remember, your replies to the negative reviews aren’t really to the person who left the review – they are for the rest of the world who want to see how you deal with an upset customer. Make sure your replies are well-written, and they actually address the situation – a generic “thanks for your review, please call us at this number” pasted as a reply to every review makes you look lazy. Responding to reviews isn’t the time to prove that you’re right.
Google reviews are typically the first reviews a user will see for your business since they’re prominently displayed in your Knowledge Panel – but Google’s algorithm looks at other review sites as well. You should try to spread your reviews evenly between Google, Facebook, industry review sites that matter for your particular vertical, and Yelp.
Local Link Building
When it comes to local SEO, local link building is important, and you need to build a lot of them. Here are some basic local link building strategies:
Use services like Meetup.com to search for local events that are relevant to your industry. Contact those relevant websites about a sponsorship. Most of the time, you will need to host a lunch for them, and if they accept, you get a backlink from their website and their Meetup.com page which is a high-authority local link.
Interviews and columns within local online publications
Offer discounts to local organizations for your product in exchange for a backlink
Offer scholarships to local universities for a highly authoritative Edu backlink. A strategy would be to host a small contest where the winner will get a couple thousand dollar scholarship. EDU backlinks are extremely powerful and will help you with local and organic SEO. Though, they are losing their power in organic SEO due to being abused.
Post an AMA on Reddit on industry-relevant subreddits
If you don’t want to invest money, simple guest posts on other local businesses will help, too!
Local SEO for your business is essential; it is a part of organic SEO; however, there are a lot of personalization and techniques which you need to employ in order to appear on top of the SERP. The less the competition, the easier it is. Some towns outside of a major city can be ranked for in no time flat, while other major cities take a bit more work.
Video Showing How To Rank Local SEO for Local Business
Here is a bonus video below where I take you through a ScreenFlow of me discussing local SEO strategies and how they can apply to you. If you’re interested in more SEO and marketing tips, I encourage you to join the e-mail list to receive newsletters for when new content is available.